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efiife of the author? That she has drawn characters too virtuous for the world! And that she has placed them in situations of trial, which the world must not imitate, because it could not preserve its innocence in them!
But I hear it objected that there is a deficiency of Teligion in her works, Ate novels then to be tried by the rules of a sermon? Surely in works of amusement the too frequent mention of this subject would profane it, and destroy rather than increase the reverence for it. Are any of the sentiments, or any of the characters, enforced by her, contrary to religion? It seems to have been her plan to pourtray virtue attractive by its own loveliness; and to leave it to divines to set forth the more awful motives of the Revealed Word!
• What moral effect," cry these censurers, “ do her tales produce?” I cannot help smiling, when i hear this question asked by those, who hang with rapture over the hobgobleries of the nursery. I suppose they are under the influence of the lessons they were taught in their infancy, when they were studying some of the tedious fables of Æsop, or Gay, to value them only as an exemplification of the two lines of trite moral at the end !
Is there then no moral effect produced by an innocent amusement of the mind? Is there nothing in the delineation of scenes, which enchant the fancy, and melt the heart? Is there nothing in the picture of female loveliness,
Sitting like Patience on a monument,
Smiling at Grief?" Is there nothing in calling forth that exercise of the intellectual faculties, which at once refines and exalts!
But are these the real causes, why the admirable productions of this fair writer have been thus depreciated? I think not. In some the prejudice was founded on her political principles. She was an approver of the origin of the French Revolution, and in Desmond spoke with too much bitterness of the privileged orders; and of the abuses of ancient institutions. Is there then no freedom of opinion in this country? Is there no forgiveness for one, who was smarting under unjust oppression, and exasperated by the undeserved neglect and insolence of “ boobies mounted over her head?” By others her touches of character were 100 nice; they were too exquisite for the apprehension of some; while to many they laid open the obliquities of the heart, or the head, with too keen a pen. The broad caricatures, and glaring colours of common novels, which excited the heavy attention of ordinary readers, were too extravagant to touch the generality of those irritable beings, who shrunk at the sharp incision of Mrs. Smith. 3. For want of these glaring colours, and farce-like personages, some taxed her with want of fancy, and some with a departure from real life. The reverse appears to be the truth!
Of Mrs. Smith's poetry it is not easy to speak in terms too high. There is so much unaffected elegance; so much pathos and harmony in it; the images are so soothing, and so delightful; and the sentiments so touching, so consonant to the best movements of the heart, that no reader of pure taste can grow weary of perusing them. Sorrow was her constant companion; and she sung with a thorn at her bosom, which forced out strains of melody, expressive of the G 2
most affecting sensations, interwoven with the rich hues of an inspired fancy. Her name therefore is sure to live among the most favoured of the Muse: but in gratitude for the long and exquisite pleasure I have received from her compositions, I feel some satisfaction in having made this humble and hasty attempt to do justice to her character.*
Jan. 11, 1807.
Art. XX. Lives of Modern Poets.
The Lives of Poets consist principally of their works; for they are seldom much engaged in any other operations than those of the mind.
In an acute examination of their writings we shall probably derive a much more accurate and discriminative idea of their characters, than from the garrulous anecdotes of their superficial acquaintance; or a few accidental traits of singularities or defects.
It may gratify the envy and malignity which are too prevalent in mankind, to bring down those who have possessed exalted talents, to the common level; to tell depreciating stories; and enforce a truth, we too well know, that the most eminent have had their hours of folly, if not of crime. It shall be
endeavour to steer a different course.
* Most of the facts contained in this memoir are drawn from the account Af Mrs. Smith, in Phiilips's “ Public Characters;" that article bearing many internal marks of authenticity.
I trust that without running into fulsome panegyric I shall be able to treat genius with the reverence to which it is entitled, and bestow praise which will gain credit from the truth of its appropriation.
Experience proves, how seldom the various qualities, which must combine to constitute a poet, occur. But if they, of whom I here propose to give some account, were not poets, those gifted beings must be still rarer than even I have supposed.
Is there any thing in education, rank of life, or out. ward circumstances, nutritive of this faculty? Let us examine the list of the principal ones who have died of late years. Two physicians, two lawyers, three clergymen, a Scotch professor, and a peasant ! None of them, unless Cowper, of distinguished birth: and almost all poor.
The author, of whom I now propose to give an account, was a man of singular endowments, and great simplicity of character.
Thomas Warton was a native of Basingstoke in Hampshire, and born in 1728. His father, who was vicar of that parish, was also a poet, and had been formerly Poetry Professor at Oxford. A posthumous volume of his Poems was edited by his son, the Rev. Joseph Warton, in 1748, three years after his death.
Thomas Warton was educated under his father at Basingstoke, and at a very early period became a member of the University of Oxford, where he soon distin
guished himself by his poetical talents. The Pleasures of Melancholy, the Progress of Discontent, and Newmarket, a Satire, were all very early compositions.
These three poems in three various styles of composition discover his extraordinary youthful acquirements, and the great versatility of his talents. And to these may be added in still another manner the Triumph of Isis, 1749, in answer to Mason's Elegy; a composition, which considered as an exercise on a subject not - chosen by himself, deserves high praise, for its harmony of numbers, and striking command of language and sentiment. Perhaps, though well calculated for popularity, it is not one of those compositions, on which either he himself or an acute critic would wish to place his claims to genius.
The recluse and uniform life of a Fellow of a College affords but little matter to descant upon. Yet it may offer many pleasures, and if not much enriched by diversity of action, may command a great variety of mental enjoyments. It has indeed been too often found, that in this mode of life, intellectual cultivation has not been in proportion to the opportunity it yielded; and that
"the vain hoars unsocial Sloth beguild,
While the still cloister's gate Oblivion lock'd;
Wan Indolence her drowsy cradle rock'd."
Experience proves that there is a certain degree of difficulties, which animates the mind, and that perfect ease and quiet are not favourable to literary exertion. Exemption from the cares of the world, respectable